5 meaningful changes to reduce stress in your life

too much stress

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We’re talking about stress again today because…let’s face it.  It’s an ongoing battle. Just when you think you have everything under control…you’re calm, collected, and feeling good…life goes pear-shaped and you find yourself back in that stress-filled pit.  But while some outside circumstances can be unavoidable, there are a lot of stress-inducing habits, actions, and reactions that you can actually control. We’re going to talk about ALL of that, plus my favorite little ways to reduce stress.

I’ve taken some pretty drastic steps in my life to decrease my own stress levels in the past few years.  I just don’t LIKE how being stressed and trying to function makes me feel. I’ve quit jobs, moved across the country to a completely new city, and put plans in place to manage things that I know are my personal stress triggers. (Hi, I’m an introvert…I just CAN’T go out every single night, even for fun events.)

But even so, things happen.  Here’s an example… For the time being, I wear several hats.  I work for myself and for several other people. All of these roles require my laptop.  Soon after launching Cozy Simple Calm…guess what happened? My laptop refused to turn on.  It’s new. It was working fine. Then one morning, nothing. I could have been angry. I could have panicked a little bit.  But I took a deep breath and decided not to let it twist me into a ball…that wouldn’t help anything anyway, right? Instead, I decided this was a sign that I needed a day off, called a great local business, and had it fixed by the next day.

Right after I got that fixed, this website had a hiccup and turned into a mess of code…the same day I had a mandatory work event. I could have let the stress take over.  I could have spent the entire day dwelling on the possibility that I just might have start over from scratch. Yikes! But I decided not to. There was nothing I could do about right at that moment and stressing about possibilities that hadn’t happened yet would get me nowhere. (Luckily, it turned out to be an easy fix and I had the problem solved the next morning!)

Both major stress triggers, right?  And both examples of things that were out of my control.  Instead of letting them ruin my day, I took a breath, made a decision to stay calm, and came up with a plan to handle it.

how to reduce stress
too much stress
how to handle stress

So what can you do to reduce stress in your life?

The answer to that is simple…not always easy, but simple.  Take a good look at your life. Think about the things that leave you feeling stressed out.  Are they internal? External? Can you change them? Can you avoid them? Here are a few examples of how to reduce daily stressors:  

1.  Control your emotional response

I know, I know…that sounds kind of bad.  Suppressing emotions and all that. But that’s not exactly what I mean. It’s absolutely okay to feel stressed when you’re in the moment!  Notice that feeling. Be aware of it. Own it for a little while. But don’t let it own you. Take a step back from the situation. Can you do anything about it right now?  If so, do it. If not, accept that you can’t solve it right this second. Make the decision not to let something ruin your day, simply because it happened.

2.  Avoid unnecessary drama

It is absolutely okay to limit your contact with people or situations that constantly bring unnecessary drama into your life, even if they are friends or family. We all know those people in our lives that are constantly in the middle of “a situation”.  If it’s something that is within your power to help, by all means, help! But if it’s an ongoing cycle of drama, drama, drama, you have my permission to step back.

3. Change what needs to change

This is a big one.  Change is scary! It can also be needed and well worth it in the end.  It may be your job, it may be a toxic friendship, or an unhealthy living situation.  In fact, the answer to what needs to change in your own life probably popped into your head when you first read this.  You know what it is. So come up with a plan to make those changes! Sometimes, even just knowing that you’re working on making those big changes can reduce your stress levels, simply because you know that you won’t be “stuck” in a stressful situation forever.

4. Don’t procrastinate

If something needs to be done, DO IT!  One of the biggest stressors in my life personally is caused by procrastination.  If you put a few things off every single day, before you know it, you’ll be buried under a big pile of “need-to-dos”.  That’s a recipe for stress and it’s easily avoidable! If you know something needs to be done, do your best to just get it done!

5. Take care of yourself

Ever notice how much more stressed you feel when you’re hungry?  Or didn’t sleep well? One of the most important things you can do to decrease stress is to take care of yourself.  Eat well, get the right amount of sleep, exercise. 

It’s also a good idea to have your doctor check you out for any nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B.  Long-term stress can actually cause your body to become unbalanced, so if you’ve been experiencing ongoing stress, it’s worth the doctor visit!  I’ve had great luck with taking a magnesium supplement during stressful times. (I’m definitely not a doctor though, so be sure to speak to one before you try it yourself.)

Taking the steps in your life to reduce your overall stress level is a great help!  But, as I said, life happens. So what can you do in the moment, when you find yourself in a stressful situation?

3 little tricks to de-stress in the moment:

If you need something, ask

If I’m having a stressful day, the first thing I do is ask my husband for a hug.  I’m not really a hugger, but sometimes I just need that physical support. If you need help getting a task done, ask for help!  Just need to vent? Call a friend and ask if they have a few minutes to just listen. There’s no shame in asking for what you need!

Meditate or journal

Take a few minutes to meditate or write your thoughts down.  Try out a meditation app, particularly if you need a little help quieting your mind. I like both Headspace and Calm. 

Write down what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, and what you can (and can’t) do about it. Don’t overthink what you’re writing, just put all those thoughts down on paper as they come to you.  Just getting them down on paper can help keep those thoughts from swirling around in your mind all day.

Breathe

Ever notice that when you’re feeling stressed, you occasionally forget to breathe?  Or you find yourself taking quick, shallow breaths? I do. Take a minute. Take a few deep breaths.  Getting some oxygen back into your brain will calm you down almost immediately.

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